Developing assumptions and methodology to determine land dedication or cash-in-lieu of land dedication (CIL) may seem pretty straightforward. For example, one of the first steps is to determine student yields. You examine the type of housing in the area, apply the number of students living in that type of housing, and presto! you have a student yield. But this type of estimation is not as simple as it seems. Further, mistaken assumptions can have a disastrous (read: costly) effect.
Actual case example impact on a school district.
A case in point comes from a school district that decided to exclude charter school enrollment from the student yields or calculation of school aged children generated by local housing. This information is critical in the pursuit of getting land dedication or cash-in-lieu of land granted by the pertinent county or municipality and resulted in a substantial undervaluation and lost funding as well. The argument was made that since the students were attending a charter school and not a traditional public school, they should be excluded from the counts. But, according to statute, they are attending a public school. Further, charter schools are financed, both in terms of operations and the cost of the facilities (lease or purchase), by public revenues. Additionally, should the charter school cease operations for whatever reason, the vast majority of those students would have to be absorbed within the traditional schools. As is evident, excluding fifteen percent of your students would have a significant negative impact on student yields and, therefore, the amount of land dedication or cash-in-lieu of land the District would receive.
Even if an omission is discovered it should be easy to rectify it, right? Probably not. Changing the methodology’s assumptions is relatively easy. The biggest question is: “Can we recoup this loss by reapplying to the county or municipality”? The answer is yes but it will be anything but easy to accomplish. It is important to recognize that once an agreement is reached with a county or city, it is highly unlikely that these decision makers would be receptive to changing the formula or dollar values, particularly if approached shortly after the initial approval at the lower amount. Remember, providing land dedication or CIL is permissive legislation, not mandatory. Even if the town of county would be receptive, our experience indicates that, because it is a complex issue, the school district would at best have a difficult time explaining the previous oversight and the subsequent change in assumptions.
What you can do.
It is imperative that a school district exercise keen judiciousness when making these calculations and make sure that all avenues and assumptions are reviewed to the maximum benefit. The example above is just one of the many errors that can be costly for your District.
SRW is acutely aware of this importance and has a history of success in creating and defending these and similar methodologies, including to the State Supreme Court level. We would sincerely appreciate the opportunity to help you “get it right the first time”; a second chance may not transpire and even if it does, it could take a long time and much money would be lost. If you would like more information about this topic or any of the many cost-effective services we provide, please feel free to contact us.